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Christopher Columbus brought Christianity to America in 1492 by means of the Santa Maria, a sailing vessel named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In December of 1531, less than 40 years later, Mary carried a message to a peasant native, Juan Diego, who had been evangelized and baptized by Catholic missionaries. The Mother of God desired that a chapel be built in her honor at the apparition site, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Despite repeated attempts, Juan Diego could not persuade the local bishop to accede to Mary's request. Finally, armed with a bundle of roses, which he had gathered at the apparition site and Mary had arranged in his tilma (cloak), he set out again to petition the bishop. Upon unfurling his tilma to reveal the roses, his host was astonished to see an image of Mary miraculously left on the garment. Full of symbolism, the divine imprint not only led to construction of the desired chapel, but ultimately to the mass conversion of 9 million natives and the end to their ritual of human sacrifice.
This chapel honors Our Lady of Guadalupe as Queen of the Americas and features figures and landmarks representing the entire American continent. On the left is Juan Diego, Bishop Zummaraga, St. Rose of Lima, a South American family, a Mayan couple from Guatemala, St. Mariana of Ecuador, a Peruvian man, a Bolivian woman, St. Martin de Porres, a workman and two gauchos with a background of South American jungle and the Andes Mountains. To the right are a Mayan woman of Yucatan, a Spanish-American couple, a matador, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, an African American, an Asian American, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Canadian woodsman, St. Isaac Jogues, and an Eskimo against a backdrop of the Basilica of Guadalupe, the Grand Canyon and the Canadian Rockies.
Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe
O Immaculate Virgin,
Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church,
who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity
to all those who ask for your protection,
hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust,
and present it to your son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.
Mother of Mercy, teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice,
to you, who come to meet us sinners,
we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love.
We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys,
our infirmities and our sorrows.
Grant peace, justice and prosperity to our peoples;
for we entrust to your care all that we have
and all that we are, our Lady and Mother.
We wish to be entirely yours and to walk with you
along the way of complete faithfulness
to Jesus Christ in His Church;
hold us always with your loving hand.
Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas,
we pray to you for all the bishops,
that they may lead the faithful
along paths of intense Christian life,
of love and humble service of God and souls.
Contemplate this immense harvest,
and intercede with the Lord
that He may instill a hunger for holiness
in the whole people of God,
and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious,
strong in the faith
and zealous dispensers of God's mysteries.
Grant to our homes
the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings,
with the same love
with which you conceived in your womb
the life of the Son of God.
Blessed Virgin Mary, protect our families,
so that they may always be united,
and bless the upbringing of our children.
Our Hope, look upon us with compassion,
teach us to go continually to Jesus
and, if we fall, help us to rise again,
to return to Him, by means of the confession
of our faults and sins in the Sacrament of Penance,
which gives peace to the soul.
We beg you to grant us a great love
for all the holy Sacraments, which are, as it were,
the signs that your Son left us on earth.
Thus, Most Holy Mother,
with the peace of God in our conscience,
with our hearts free from evil and hatred,
we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace,
which come to us from your son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit,
lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Mexico, January 1979